It’s not the crack of dawn like during the school year, but Monday at 7 a.m. the cross country team was out in full force at Ricebird Stadium running on the field and bleachers as they continue to stay in shape during the offseason, preparing for the upcoming season, just over a month away.
“(They’re all out here) to get in shape, to better themselves in whatever sport they’re doing, mostly cross country,” incoming junior Breanna Perez said. “We’re really dedicated to our work. We still come during the summer, most people would still be in bed right now.”
Like football which is allowed offseason workouts with coaching instruction, cross country has taken advantage as well.
Offseason cross county is not something all schools do, in fact, a runner from Boling is running with the El Campo team to stay in shape during the summer months.
Two days a week, El Campo’s cross country team is braving the hot and humid mornings and getting in about three miles of running as they zig and zag all across the football field and alternate running and walking the visitor side bleachers. The end of practice culminates with a final song from Naustopil’s boom box. His running playlist ends with a fast song, signaling to his runners to sprint through the final song and try to pass the person in front of them, just like if they were in a race during the year.
Like a cross country race, which might seem never-ending, so is the training. After last season ended, the team got a handful of weeks off from running and then they were back on the field.
El Campo doesn’t have any cross county trails that the team can take advantage of, so most of their time is spent at Ricebird Stadium.
“After a while, it gets repetitive when you keep doing the same thing over and over again,” Perez said. “But (Coach) Naus (Robert Naustoupil) tries to do different things with us so we won’t get tired.”
The cross country team does the same run each Monday they practice, but the rest of the time, Naustoupil mixes in different types of runs and even some running games so the grind doesn’t become too tedious.
Over the summer, in addition to the running at the school, the cross country team is taking part in 5Ks. When school starts back up, they will have taken part in four. Last Saturday, they took part in the Shiner 5K where they had two runners medal. Andres Torres finished third overall and Perez finished third out of all females ages 14-25.
“It gets us competitive and ready to run,” Perez said. “Whenever school starts we’ll already know what coach is looking for, so it’s like a practice run.”
El Campo will get another chance to stay competitive with back-to-back weekends of 5Ks. The cross country runners will compete in a 5K in Victoria, the highlight of this race is a nearly 100-foot slip-n-slide at the finish line this Saturday.
Naustoupil sees a lot of value in the 5Ks especially for members of his girls cross country team.
“A 5K is a mile longer for the girls then what we run in the UIL,” Naustoupil said. “Not only is a 5K a good indicator (of where they are at), but it helps them. On Aug 14, when we go run at Magnolia Beach, after running all these 5Ks, now they only have to run two miles, it’s going to be a piece of cake.”
Only seven girls make up the varsity roster and five could return this season with two graduating last season. The boys team only had one varsity runner last year and he graduated.